See the driving tour to envision DOT’s I-81 plan in real life

Future of 81

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Inside his DOT office in Downtown Syracuse, Mark Frechette looks at drawings, diagrams and data about I-81 all day long. He can’t get away from the viaduct even when he leaves his desk because he uses it to get home.

“I do dream about the project,” Frechette tells NewsChannel 9 while driving around the areas impacted by the project. “Seriously dream about the project because I’ve studied it for so long.”

On his tour, Frechette shows off the southern interchange near Loretto, where current I-81 meets the current I-481. It’s at this point, in the future, drivers from the south will have two choices: reroute to the new I-481 with the new name I-81 or take the old I-81 with the new name Business Loop 81.

Frechette takes NewsChannel 9 straight north, which will become the Business Loop.

He says the old I-81 will be more like a freeway than people expect, mostly high-speed except for the 1.2 miles between the new traffic circle near MLK and around the same line as where I-690 stands.

“People will be able to go 65mph right here,” he says. “Not slow down at all coming into the city. We’re not touching the highway proper here.”

What will be new before the current Adams Street exit and the traffic circle is an exit that takes drivers to Colvin Street, one of two new gateways to Syracuse University areas.

The other is on-ramps and off-ramps from I-690 right to Crouse and Irving Avenues.

Approaching Adams Street, Frechette says, “In the morning, it’d be parked. Tou could get in a line here and crawl up there as the signal allowed for that. That all gets mitigated in the community grid to really give people opportunities to get where they want to go.”

Off the highway, the traffic circle will lead to Almond Street, which becomes the longest new part of Business Loop of I-81.

Frechette says, “We will totally rebuild Almond Street. Total reconstruction, new sidewalks. We’ve got the median with lots of trees. We’re trying to create a different culture.”

From Almond Street, the Business Loop turns left onto Erie Boulevard, then north to a brand new Oswego Boulevard, which takes people to the other end of the freeway from the old I-81.

The Loop takes people through an Erie Canal-themed district behind Syracuse City Hall.

“They get to where we are right now, they’re going to know they’ve arrived. They’re going to see aesthetically pleasing things,” Frechette says concluding the tour.

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